Re: A strategy for affordability
From: Greg Nelson (
Date: Fri, 21 May 2010 22:03:11 -0700 (PDT)

It's funny that you mention this:

> Oh...btw.. one of the biggest obstacles to developing small homes, 
> especially in a community, is the lack of conducive zoning and 
> building codes. Some counties restrict the minimum size to 1,200+ 
> square feet, one home to a parcel.

because my neighbor Julie was just looking into what the codes were
for some prospective residents who would like to build small homes.
What she found for us is:

        Minimum square footage varies depending on occupancy.
        Efficiency Units housing 1-2 people must have a clear floor
        area of at least 220 sq ft. plus a bathroom.  Efficiency Units
        housing 3 or more people must have a clear floor area of at
        least 320 sq ft. plus a bathroom.

There are some other details, like must have a living room of at least
120 sq ft if 3-5 people are living there, etc.

So in any case, there are *some* places where the zoning restrictions
aren't the main cost obstacle.

One painful truth about the construction process is that there are
some costs that are fixed, and many things that do not go down as fast
as square footage.  Your well or your septic tank or your kitchen sink
will be the same price regardless of home size, assuming you go for
the same level of quality in every case.  The cost of pouring a
foundation, if you have one, has a big charge in it for the cement
truck to show up, whether they are pouring a 100sq ft slab or a
10000sq ft slab.  And if you are going to share the cost of building a
common house, then the most common model seems to be one where every
household contributes an equal share, even if some homes are much
larger than others.

I still think that offering smaller and more affordable homes should
be explicit goals of the cohousing movement.  I just would rather
avoid running off again in the direction that says "it's all about
there being too many laws" rather than a balanced approach that fights
the most important battles for affordability in each community.

Greg Nelson                     email:  ghn [at]
White Hawk Ecovillage           phone:  607-273-2576
Ithaca, NY 14850                web:

P.S. We would love to have new "under 1000 sq ft" neighbors!

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.